BEFORE LEAVING Dubai Friday noon, M Sharafudheen had ensured that his home in Kozhikode was stocked with provisions for a month — groceries in the cupboard, fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator. He had also got his aged parents moved to his elder brother’s home that morning. The salesman was coming to Pilassery village, with his wife Amina Sherin and their two-year-old daughter Fathima Iza, after a year. And he wanted to make sure that everything was in place for the 28 days of home quarantine. Finally, before the flight took off, Sharafudheen posted a photograph on Facebook of the family inside the aircraft wearing face shields.(Read in Tamil here)
Hours later, the 35-year-old became one of the 18 who were killed after the Air India Express aircraft crashlanded at Kozhikode airport. On Saturday, Sharafudheen’s body was in the morgue of the district’s medical college. Fathima was in the ICU, a few hundred metres away. And Amina was fighting for life after undergoing an emergency surgery at a private hospital.
“My brother had been working in Dubai for more than a decade. His wife and daughter went a few months ago, and their visa had expired during the Covid outbreak. Initially, only Amina and their daughter were coming home. But he did not want them to languish in quarantine. So he took leave for two months and flew with them,” says Shamsudheen, the elder brother.
Others on the list of 18 include Muhammed Riyas (24) who was coming home to finalise his marriage; K Janaki (55), a domestic help who had lost her job; and Lailabi K V (51), who was returning after spending time with her husband.
“Riyas’s family had wanted him to come much earlier for the function. But it was postponed due to Covid. He decided to come over now with his brother Nizamudhin since there are some relaxations in curbs. Nizamudhin survived the crash with minor injuries. Both the brothers were working in shops in Dubai,” says C Unnikrishnan, a panchayat member in Riyas’s Chalavara village in Palakkad.
In Kozhikode’s Balussery, Janaki’s neighbour Shaju T T says her sponsor in Dubai had lost his job and wanted to cut expenses. “That’s why he sent her back. In fact, she should have returned a month ago. Since the evacuation flights began, she had been desperately looking for a ticket. It was finally confirmed for this flight,’’ says Shaju.
“Her husband had abandoned her, and she had gone to the Middle East to ensure some financial security for her old age. But she could not save much, and was returning empty handed. A local philanthropist has donated some land for her cremation,’’ he says.
At Edappal in Malappuram, Lailabi’s friend Subaida says she had flown to Dubai last year to be with her husband Ummer K, a businessman. “Her younger son Muhammed Radib, who is 22, had returned from Dubai the day before. Lailabi’s ticket was confirmed for Friday. She had called me two days ago, saying she was so relieved to be returning home,’’ says Subaida.